CORNWALL, Ontario – Cameron Savard was built for football and contrary to what doctors will tell you, his heart was in it from the moment he stepped on the field.
The 17-year-old St. Joseph’s Secondary School student who loved everything about the game passed away in his sleep Tuesday due to a suspected heart defect that will leave as a big a hole on the Panther sideline as it has with his family.
The massively jovial gridiron fan, who could not play the sport on the order of doctors, was named the trainer for the team for two seasons.
Panthers team officials will tell you there was never a bigger supporter of the team and its players than the guy who was unable to suit up to play games.
His mother Shawna Maxam, who continually fought tears in a heart-wrenching interview, said being on the sidelines of games was the next best thing to being on the field – and Cameron never forgot it.
“He was a Panther through and through,” said Maxam. “Football was his absolute passion.”
No kidding – if there was ever a high schooler made for the field, it was Cameron, who stood at more than six feet and tipped the scales at 260 pounds.
“In our beautiful world everyone recognized his passion for the game,” said Maxam, adding when the team approached him to be a trainer, he was elated. “That was one of his greatest joys. Just being told he was part of the team.
“I don’t think anyone would ever know how important that was to him. It was such a small gesture, but it meant the world to him.”
Indeed. Cameron is being remembered at St. Joe’s with a heavy heart this week.
Maxam said that can be attributed to his infectious attitude towards life. Just last week, after returning from a doctor’s appointment where Cameron and his mom were told that the aortic valve condition that had been with him since birth would require surgery to correct, the young man was uncharacteristically concerned.
“The other thing about Cameron was that he loved to shop,” said Maxam. “So I thought some shopping therapy would help.”
After two hours walking the mall Maxam was in awe of her son.
“Every store we went into, men, women, young people…he said hello to everyone,” she recounted. “He was friends with everyone we met in the mall.”
Those friends, new and old, are holding a candlelight vigil Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at ‘the boathouse’ in Glen Walter at the corner of County Road 2 and Sabourin Drive.
Maxam is bracing herself for an onslaught of support from friends and family that is already flooding her home.
“There have been so many stories told in the last couple of days,” she said tearfully. “It’s hard to pick just one.”
Cameron’s friends, though, were quick to point out more than a few of their favourites.
Buddy Sam MacGillivray recounted an occasion in June while at an outdoors education class in Charleston Lake where Cameron outdid himself.
“I was cutting jalapenos for part of supper and I got some juice in my eye…and it was killing me,” he said, adding Cameron thought his friend was being a bit of a baby – so he quickly dashed some of the fiery liquid in his own eye. “And then he just flips out, and goes to dunk his head in the water and he just falls over.”
Friend Spencer Roy was equally impressed with his buddy.
“Every guy I’ve ever met in town was through Cam,” he said.
Cameron’s sister Cassidy said her brother was a young man among men.
“He talked to everyone,” she said.
Added friend Landon Hickman: “He was one of those kids, that whenever he came into the room the whole atmosphere just changed.”
Mat Perreault, another of Cameron’s army of friends suggested: “And when he walked into a room he always had something different to say.”
Cameron is also survived by his father Chris Savard, and siblings Tristan, Taylor and step-siblings Cameron and Bailey. The family will be in attendance at Lahaie and Sullivan Funeral Home on Seventh Street West at 10 a.m., which will be followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m. in the chapel.